Friday, December 27, 2013

Everything you ever wanted to know about the AEC industry you can learn from Danny Ocean’s – Ocean Thirteen

I received a message recently, noting that I had become ‘top contributor’ in the BIM Experts Group on LinkedIn. As much as the label pleases, it is a bit strange, since most time I write to this forum or any other BIM related one, I tend to be questioning the views of the majority of globally active BIM-enthusiast or even worst, quickly get classified as ‘a troll’ because my comments are seen as discouraging if not downright negative and damaging to the future of the industry.

As much as I’d love to share the enthusiasm of those that believe ‘BIM is getting there globally’ (led by the UK or whoever else..) – slowly but surely, I’ll close off another year spent working hard in this field with the view, that BIM (as promoted still) is doomed and will fail sooner or later, unless the industry changes the fundamentals of its modus operandi.
And, I am not referring here to the ‘paradigm’ changes that BIM evangelist like to talk about that involve armies of change agents, champions and missionaries.

My view is that, until the industry becomes such that entities (people, companies) are truly and consistently judged by their results and are made accountable for them, BIM is just going to stay an expensive appendage to projects, a pretend improvement on processes, a perceived tax to pay to stay in certain parts of the market (refer to mandated BIM) a career path or a way to make a quick buck for a few BIM-wave riders;

Still, what gives me hope at the end of another year, that even though there are few and spread apart thinly, globally, there are others that get my point too.

If you want to see one obvious example, go and (re)watch Danny Ocean’s – Ocean Thirteen;
It shows multiples of very good and relevant examples of how the AEC and its participants operate in almost any environment (both the BIM infected and the ones that are not) and I may yet do a serious write-up on those one day.

For today, let me just quote a discussion between Al Pacino’s character Willy Bank and a member of the construction crew working on his project:

“I don't want the labor pains.
I just want the baby.”

Picture from here:

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Aussie_BIM vs the UK_BIM, AKA the global BIM leaders (When and why had Graphisoft given up on their Australian ArchiCAD users?)

It all started with a nice little coincidence:
Last week, due to having some free time to roam the earth between two jobs (the future one yet to be fully defined) and having not seen my eldest daughter for 2 years, I visited her in Melbourne, where she now lives and works.
Parallel to this little personal event, a BIM author I’ve previously critiqued on my blog for representing the UK BIM as unjustly superior to the rest of the world had published a new writing, this time with the following title:
“UK professionals are seen as world leaders in BIM adoption but now we must let the Australians tackle BIM challenges their way” (ref 1)

I will not jump-in ‘wholesale’ to defend the development and status of BIM in Australia, I have not the qualification, relevant experience nor specific data to do so, but would definitely expect some heavy-weights from ‘the country of dangerous creatures ‘to seriously challenge this writing.
Let me just mention a few basic points that come to mind:
·         For example the work of prof Mark Burry: he moved to Melbourne in the mid 1990s – by then a visible and globally respected BIM figure.
(the author, Mr Peter Barker – according to his LinkedIn page – (ref 2), was working as an Architectural Technician on the other end of the world at this time, maybe that fact can be used as a mitigating factor for him missing out on any of prof Burry’s work, though Gaudi’s Sagrada  (ref 3) – one of is his ‘real’ projects, is remarkably close to where Mr Barker lived and worked and has been/still is a forever cool subject in the Architectural fraternity)
·         On the other end of the spectrum, even the (from my angle seen as) notorious buildingSMART chapter in Australia can comfortable claim to have been active since 1994 (it was called something else in those times) (ref 4) with its chair (forever) Mr John Mitchell promoting various ideological forms of BIM ever since I’ve been BIM-ing myself, and that is getting close to 2 decades.

But, even if the academia and the various industry organisations select to stay quiet and accept to be labelled ‘BIM-backward’ by the UK experts, what about Graphisoft and other software suppliers active in the region?

See, once upon a time, some decade or so ago – BIM (or VC) and Graphisoft (with ArchiCAD) were doing very well in Australia (and New Zealand)!

In 2004 as an employee of the NZ distributer of the software, I personally organised a string of extremely well attended seminars held by David Sutherland, the director of FKA, (ref 05) designers of the Eureka Tower in Melbourne (ref 05) and celebrated power-users of ArchiCAD.

So successful was Mr Sutherland in selling the concept of BIM (or VC) to the architects of NZ that even after many years had passed I was repeatedly told by the director of the competing software company (AutoDesk) that these seminars were the turning point for many of his clients to step up from 2D to 3D.
In 2004 David Sutherland was talking not only about the technology and its use in their Australian and globally operating business but also how it reformed the way his company worked, how they become more productive and better hands-on as designers.
FKA was not the only cutting edge BIM company that pushed the boundaries of BIM using ArchiCAD in Australia in the early 2000s – Rice Daubney, Woods Bagot and others did too.

My point is, Graphisoft and ArchiCAD were doing OK in OZ then.
Making progress. getting somewhere.
Their results were well beyond what Mr ‘Know It All UK BIM Expert’ would give them credit for now, even a decade ago, based on the tone of his lecture in the print.

Yet, Graphisoft had lost that battle, not just judging by my personal failure to land a simple ArchiCAD trainer role in Melbourne (ref 06, embarrassing, I know - my application did not even get acknowledged!) but also by Woods Bagot being all but Autodesk's poster boy these days.

Original article here:

My husband just pointed out that the original article can only get accessed by registered users;
This little quote from the same will hopefully make those reluctant to go that far intrigued (annoyed) enough to do so:

“Therefore the nation that surfs the waves on a white board, braves the rip tides, four metre great whites, and swarms of stinging jellyfish and comes back for more, can easily overcome the initial steps in BIM.
Australians love UK soccer, let’s ensure they love our UK BIM.”

Saturday, December 7, 2013

‘Has he walked away from Leighton? Did the journalist know of them at all?’

(this is technically a blogpost that fits under the ‘gammon and friends’ interest of mine – though can be deemed to be a topic worthy of publishing to a wider audience – those with BIM interests working in the ME as well as global AEC participants, thus I’m publishing the link here too)

Sunday, November 24, 2013

A SPECTACULAR BIM OFFER at a fraction of a price! Exclusively for the UAE and for a very limited time only!

Well informed people operating in the construction industry of the UAE will be aware of a circular released by the Dubai Municipality to all Consultants and Contractors working in Dubai notifying them, that it is has been decided to implement (Building Information Modelling) for all Architectural and MEP Works on projects of a certain type and size, starting from the 1st of January 2014.

In conjunction with this initiative and taking into account my personal circumstances, I am using this opportunity to offer up my skills for any UAE based contractor or AEC client impacted by this new rule;
My offer is:
A world class BIM service delivered by myself working as an employee based in their Dubai – or other UAE office.
Absolute commitment to work in the best interest of the company and assist them get to grips with what BIM really is and what it can do for both the company and its projects (in a positive as well negative way, i.e. how to mitigate risks that will inevitably creep in and inflict major damages for the uninitiated).  

Good news:
Those that know me and appreciate the value I bring to any job I get involved in will also know that this is a pretty good deal on offer.

Bad news:
There is still extremely few if any people or entities that truly do appreciate this;

What I ask in return:
  • Commit to a 6 months contract at 25,000 UAE Dirhams salary/month
  • Arrange and provide UAE sponsorship/visa for me and 2 teenage daughters
  • Allow me to use my software, approach and processes
  • (i.e. judge me by the results I deliver rather than how I do them)
  • Let me work max 6 days/week 8-9hrs/day              
  • Don’t limit or in any way control what I do after hours
  • (as long as it is not related to the company I’m contracted to);
Offer expires on the 3rd  of December 2013 (or when the supply is gone – first come, first served);

Personal note to Friends, colleagues (ex), acquaintances that this note ends up being sent to (by me or others):
This is not a spam, not a joke, not even desperation kicking in; (trust me I always have a Plan B)

Just a potentially pretty good deal for two savvy business partners – and if not interested – there is a ‘delete’ button on most computers these days;

Monday, November 18, 2013

BIM 101 for Andrew Hayward; Balfour Beatty plc: Head of Ethics, Risk and Assurance

On Sunday, August the 25th this year, within this blog I published the third instalment of the story I like to refer to as the ‘HK MTR BIM experiment’.

Although I was still very bitter over being fired mainly because of my actions related to this job (mainly, but not entirely) at the time of writing, I was still genuinely hoping to start an exchange of ideas going within the learned and even more importantly, experienced part of the global BIM community.
I was very eager not to breach confidentiality of the participants beyond quoting what was already out in the public domain. I definitely had no intention to create further cynicism towards mandating BIM, just wanted to call for caution, halt the horses of unbridled BIM enthusiasm that seemed to have driven some of the architects of the HK MTR’s 11xx line’s BIM framework as well as the creators behind many other large scale BIM initiatives currently in action all around the globe.

I wrote numerous blog-posts (at least the previously mentioned trilogy) I explained my story through a slideshow, with the help of my daughter, we turned it even into a youtube movie.
The reactions were meek, mooted, mostly negative, happening almost entirely behind closed doors, if anywhere.
Previously publicly available presentations on the goals and objectives of the grand ‘exercise’ were taken off air – then briefly put back just to disappear again for (I guess) good.
I suspect feverish modelling took place within many of the contractors’ offices to catch up with the dubious ‘3 month deadline’ so long gone, parallel with hastily amended specifications and briefs.
Could the entire line of contracts have been rewritten to suit the factual status of the job or had everyone just closed their eyes shut and hoped nothing bad will come out of this, I’ll probably never get to know, unless MTR ‘spills the beans’ 3 years down the track when the claims that were never supposed to happen due to the revolutionary BIM use still eventuate en masse?

For now, let me follow my colleague Andrew Hayward; (Balfour Beatty plc: Head of Ethics, Risk and Assurance) style who has bluntly dismissed my concerns of any wrong doings of Gammon on this case (as alleged by me and detailed on my other blog) and give him a just-as-arrogantly blunt lecture on BIM as set up on this large project by the HK MTR in collusion with their advisors and the actions that the directors of Gammon have taken to guide their project (and in turn BB) through this possibly fatal trap:

Timeline and background:
·         Sometime before 2012 Intelibuild had sold the idea of BIM being a great thing for MTR and employed ‘it’ at least on one project (West Kowloon Terminus project);
·         Sometime in 2012 MTR had negotiated and set in place a bunch of contracts with a number of contractors to build parts of the SCL (11xx) line and also obliged them to deliver those contract by following a highly prescriptive BIM approach.
·         This approach, though explained at a professional gathering where the CEO of Gammon was also presenting had somehow been missed by the bidders and later by the management of the project and the director in charge of BIM implementation. Missed and/or ignored.
·         As a result or due to some other reasons an unspecified amount of resources were spent by the project and the company on employing an alternative BIM, that was neither in line with what the client had asked for, nor had Gammon in house capabilities to deliver it.
·         An external consultant was hired to assist with the implementation of this non-complying BIM and engaged over a lengthy period of time.
·         I joined the company when it was close to the end of its 5th month of the contract. After my discovery of the mandated BIM and the 3 month cut-off I questioned the strategy of the project delivery team and the guidance given to them by the director in charge of BIM.
·         The struggle between them and me lasted around 6-8 weeks.
·         I foolishly assumed that the people in charge of the project truly wanted to tick all the boxes the client presented to them with minimal extra cost involved.
As in complying with the clients requirements, but also minimising the risk of unacceptable claims in the future and assisting the project delivery.
·         I had come up with various options of various risks and costs associated with each.
·         While all of this was happening the ‘alternative BIM’ set up by the BIM director carried on even though the goals or indeed results of it were not fully disclosed to me, yet all of it was technically under my portfolio. (The Head of Innovation reported to the BIM Director)
·         Even taking all its shortcoming into account, the MTR BIM spec had its heart on the right place and implemented correctly (or at least with the original intent intact) would have given the clients certainty beyond that normally awarded by contractors engaged on their projects.
·         The fact, that 8 months in their own contract Gammon was still trying to ‘all but wiggle out of this’ requirement is a testimony to their ‘special relationship’ with MTR.
·         The fact that they attempted to still get me take full responsibility for this non-compliance is a totally different story.
·         Or maybe it is not, just another part of the same one.
·         Either way, I got kicked out because I refused to implement a half-arsed approach to ‘a pretend BIM’, on the false pretence of saving money while probably much more money was being spent freely on BIM initiatives on this same project that benefited little more than the BIM director’s ego and his relationship with the alternative software and service supplier.

Everyone but me appears to treat this little incident as ‘water under the bridge’ and it could easily be seen a bit pretentious of me to think that me listing of these events will give Mr Andrew Hayward; (Balfour Beatty plc: Head of Ethics, Risk and Assurance) any new knowledge of what this ‘BIM thing’  is or may yet do to his ethics, risk and even assurance portfolio in the future.
But it may just get him to read up a bit on it and not just accept the assurance of any-old ‘BIM expert’ (even if he carries the reputation of a ‘trusted, talented director’) that things have all been done by the book.
Hong Kong may be a bit out of sight and out of mind but I’m not.

picture from here


Saturday, November 9, 2013

Isn’t someone missing here? (What is my problem with Autodesk?)

I get regular updates through my FB page on how the big event of The Hong Kong Institute of Building Information Modelling (HKIBIM) planned for the 13th of December is shaping up.
See, not long ago I was setting up myself to attempt to become ‘a professional member’ of that organisation – saved some money on the application process by my quick exit from the town and anyhow, was not rating my chances high for passing the ‘bar’ (it was set pretty high!);

Still, the updates on successful sponsorships keep coming, so it looks like it will be quite an event.

There is one organisation visibly missing from the list (as published so far) of corporate sponsors and it is, Autodesk.
If I’m going to be cynical, I’ll predict that they will come in last minute with the overarching ‘super-sponsorship’ (whatever colour of ‘a gem’ that may be) or better still – no sponsorship at all, after all, most of the speakers will be falling over backwards to advertise their products, anyway.
Autodesk has sewn up the HK market. The global AEC too.

What is my problem with Autodesk?
In the end, they are ‘just’ a software provider, successful at what they are doing, why can’t I just let them be.
Their foot soldiers are pretty agreeable people world-wide. I’ve met many, worked with some.
I’ve learned AutoCAD on DOS, in 3D with no mouse in the early 1990s.
I owned professional licences of AutoCAD, Revit, Studio Max for many years.
I had my first training in Revit in 2004 and get around it OK.

My biggest problem is not that Revit is a ‘dog of a software’.
Although, it is.
Even if I consider the vastly superior ArchiCAD and the Bentley/Microstation range, all the more so Tekla and everything Trimble had collected over the last year or two - these tools, all together are still ‘so last century’.

As I do my own soul-searching on when did the AEC and I lose our connection so irrevocably, I go back to those late 80s-early 1990s, when things could go one way or other, not just for me, but AEC digital tool developments – probably not surprisingly in line with world-wide political changes.

3 things I can point to as relevant had their start in those years related to the global/big scale AEC:
1/ tendency to work hands-off was born (I call this large scale illiteracy)
2/ multi-national mega-sized consultancies were starting staking out new territories and were more often than not run by MBA’s as opposed to technically savvy people with some business skills.
3/ information management tool providers (unlike in manual drafting days) got given an unprecedented opening to influence a globally active industry.

The 1980-s AutoCAD was a good product for its time and the AEC industry;
It supported the thinking of the ‘old master builders’, thinking and working in 3D.

By the early nineties though, they stumbled on a much better recipe than pushing AEC into the digital 3D world.
They created the role of the ‘CAD manager’ and hooked them onto their products, or even more importantly the feeling of ‘power’ that these, up-to-that-point mostly average ex-draftsmen could now exercise over both their management and everyone below.
From that point, things were lost for the AEC – like smokers addicted at young age, these foot-soldiers become Autodesk’s slaves and savours for the following 2 decades.
For a while they backed the use of AutoCAD 2D to the hilt, no matter how much damage senseless production of uncoordinated 2D drawings and unthinking CAD people did to the industry, projects, clients.

When the pressure got a bit too much to ‘move with time’, (2 year old kids were playing 3D based computer games) they bought Revit (the business and the product) and have ever since been half-heartedly developing it.

They had various stages of marketing themselves as ‘Solution suppliers’, ‘trusted technology partners’ and whatnot – their loyal CAD managers got upgraded to BIM Managers – often even elevated to be the exclusive  ‘Change agents’ that ruled over highly sophisticated looking  ‘evolutionary or revolutionary‘ change management processes overseen by the ‘masters of the CAD/BIM universe’, Autodesk.
But, they did no good for the industry.

So finally, it is crystal clear for me, what my problem is with Autodesk and to large extents with all of the other current, mainstream AEC information management tool-and-system providers.

Knowingly or just by following the ‘crowds’ they all had become the ‘manipulators’ of the industry, and have a large share of responsibility to carry for why it is in such a bad shape, as it currently is.

There may have been a scantily clad ‘Emperor’ walking the industry when Autodesk first entered the market (in the eighties) and this is by no means their fault that the guy was a bit under-dressed, but over the last 2 decades the Emperor had lost all of its clothes while the Autodesk-machine has weaved the most beautifulness of garments around him and is doing fine from this financial/business/manipulation exercise globally, thank you very much.

Autodesk, as my first love and the biggest of cheaters is my number one disappointment and the one that wears the most of guilt in my mind of being a wicked manipulator.
The rest is not far behind, even though they may argue that the inertia and strength needing to fight the big boys took too much out of them to do anything else.

Sorry, you are all in the same arena and just by fluffing up the hot-air balloon of unrealistic, mostly undeliverable, make-believe, choice-driven, play nicely BIM probably as guilty as Autodesk of manipulating the industry into a corner, I don’t know if it can recover from, any time soon.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Trust and confidentiality

A friend of mine asked me recently, how come I was not worried about being unemployable for life due to the ‘things I wrote about certain companies’ in my blog-posts over the last couple of years?
He also added that it would be a ‘brave bastard’ (his word) to employ me in any way after the things ‘I’ve been dishing up on certain ‘large’ entities…’
Jokingly, he finished his thoughts with questioning himself and if he should trust me any-more and at all  with any personal data – in view of my ‘behaviour’.
(this is a ‘seriously close’ friendship that has been in existence for close to 3 decades)

Forgive me, and my naivety, but what has the world come to?
The last time that I remember that I knowingly mislead anyone was when my daughter cut her knee on a jagged piece of mosaic (and I’ll tell that story separately one day, no big deal, really) –
I am as straight as they come.

I have a terrible memory to keep even the shortest lies going-on  and look after ’made up’ stories, so I say things as they are, keeps it easy for me.
Is this really such a big crime? I see fraud - I report it – if it gets not acted-on (in-house) eventually I write it up to the public to make its judgement on it.
Where I see negligence, incompetence that causes other parties lose money, I point it out.
First to the ones involved; then, if no one cares, to the ones above.
If the impacted party is too removed (like a public-client or society at large) I try to get the average ‘Joe Blogs’ take ownership of issues and start to care.
Mostly unsuccessfully.

It is construction after all. Concrete, bricks and mortar. Very un-sexy.
Not rocket science, not even medical stuff where answers to tricky questions would mean the difference between life and death.

We build buildings, small and large and the questions I raise are most often about how clients’ money is spent in construction processes. Spent or squandered;
Mostly wasted through blatant negligence.
And quite often we do talk of a lot of money
And more often than not, ‘people’ do not want to know.
Construction is, as it is. Everyone knows: Uncertain.
Bless it’s heart AND keep it that way!
So much easier for everyone to keep their highly paid jobs!

Still, just because I publicly say any particular company is incompetent to build any building to a set budget and set time-frame, and the impacted party is more than happy 'to forgive', should I be the one and the only one left penalised?
Should I be the one to see all my friends shy away from telling me little friendly secrets, because I'm a certified ‘nark’?
This ‘fact’ is hard to accept.
It would be the other way in almost any other industry
Bring me the Mafia, any day!

One can be a defence attorney or part of a public prosecution team and have a proper social life.
One can work as an auditor for any IRD and still get workplace gossip handed down freely.
One can even be an ‘f…’-en parking warden and still keep seeing friends.

Why can’t I speak frankly about the global AEC and stay employable, let alone retain a handful of friends that will share a joke or two with me?

Is it because this industry IS more rotten than the medical, judicial and political sector combined together?
Could be! Think about it!
Go back to that ‘watchdog idea’ I wrote about a couple of weeks ago just as a reminder…

(picture here is taken 24.5 year ago when I become an architect –soon to turn into an unemployable, highly over-qualified, dangerous nark! Maybe not as soon as I faired , but it happened, anyway)

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Blog-post number 500! The truth is (almost) always in the numbers….

There was a special topic I had been saving up for this nice ‘round number’ as a gesture of goodwill of providing some globally interesting ‘food for thought’ for the steadily increasing group of my blog-readers, instead of posting another one of my usual self-centred servings of whinging;

It was to be a follow-up to the ‘Secret Google magic will save the global AEC’ story from a week or two ago and it was going to be titled something along the line of:

‘Take a page out of Gehry’s book Google, and then learn something out of it…’

See, there is something really nice in sharing this personal milestone of 500 blog-posts with 2 famous entities.
Frank Gehry, the architect and I go back a long way.
Not that he would be able to tell me from a bar of soap;
Google on the other hand knows more about me than my husband and mother jointly do, and that is quite an achievement, in itself.

In preparation for the story I even made a trip to the first Gehry designed residential building in Hong Kong before leaving the city a week or so ago. (see pictures);

But then, again my pathetic little survival game interfered with the celebration plans and I decided to dedicate this special number to another special topic and put up (yet another) challenge for the wider audience.

Faithful readers will remember that not that long ago, I had a whirlwind affair with a well-known entity. (Gammon Construction in Hong Kong);
The affair ended in tears, (mine) when I got kicked out because I alleged some wrong doing by some pretty high-level people within the company. That is my story anyway, the company denies this.

I accepted the job with the named company in the first place partly due to its big-named parents, so I thought that at least the ‘family’ will look into what is happening in this case I would have classified as a typical case of ‘whistle blowing’.
But no, after repeated begging of both sides to investigate, still no progress.

My latest request asking them to at least release what their policies are for such cases has been left un-responded to, too;
(my email request quoted here)

Dear all,
Could you please ASAP send me a copy of your company’s (Gammon, Balfour Beatty and Jardines) official ‘whistle blower protection policy’ and any associated procedures that may be in place to enforce such policy?
If you are not able to do this personally, please provide me with the legal department’s contacts that can.
I’d appreciate receiving these 3 documents by the end of today.
Zolna Murray

So, this brought to mind the thought that begs belief.
Could these three companies, individually and jointly not have such policies in place at all?
Remember, these are not small companies!
The number of people they employ according to their own and other websites are close to 300,000 people.
That is a lot of people, almost like the joint population of Wellington and Christchurch in New Zealand.
Even my beloved Novi Sad’s (in Serbia) population is below this.

Would that many people, working in at least 80 countries (as per BB’s claim) have really no protection any time that any ‘standard employee’ put their hand up and says:
‘Hey Mr Company there is something really fishy going on here, it may cost you a lot of money in the future, can you please look into it?’
Or is this just a Gammon privilege to have its big parents close their eyes to such lack of action discretely?

So, here is my challenge:
I invite anyone from the named companies to write to me ( and send me their own experiences of these companies’ whistleblowing policies in action.
Or at least copies of such documents if they really exist. (full confidentiality, totally assured)
Once I can clarify if my case is really a unique one, I’ll reward everyone that had been reading any of my 500 or so blog post and still comes back to them with the promised Gehry/Google story.
Or maybe even earlier if it takes too long to get that data together.


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Is the ‘rarefied bubble of advanced best (BIM) practice’ of the UK AEC under a threat suddenly?

I copped a bit of flack when I wrote in my blog recently about the status of the UK BIM being the ‘rarefied bubble of advanced best (BIM) practice’ – even though I dutifully quoted the original source of the claim.

Barely a month after this confident statement the author is somewhat rattled, his latest writing says:
“BIM is a very seductive concept, but the allure of solving the ills of industry should not distract us from recognising the challenges associated with implementation.”

I love the world ‘challenge’ – it so often is associated with BIM.
 While in some other fields it may mean ‘some difficulty in achieving desired results’ when it comes to BIM, more often than not, it means ‘don’t bother, can’t be done…can pretend for a while to try it, anyway’.

There is a point in every committed BIM-mer’s  life, when the big question pops up – often totally unexpectedly, sort of coming from nowhere;
And from that point his/her life will never be the same again - regardless on which one of the two possible paths s/he chooses to accept to follow in the future.
This is the point when one realises that ‘Santa does not exist’ and the ‘tooth fairy really is your mum’. Just, translated to BIM – the entire idea of a single model co-operation based BIM is as far from reality as the little blue people of the Smurfs world are.

This time, as Mr Barker calls for leadership for BIM to happen I may not be the only one noticing a drop of confidence.
I am a bit sorry for him softening his tone – though I’m always ready to jump in and criticise – he sounds like a really Intelligent fellow, writes pretty agreeably – someone worthwhile of giving the benefit of a doubt.

And then, look at his title: ‘Peter Barker is managing director of BIM Academy’ – I do respect it, yet how funny is that on the contrary, myself,  the more I know about BIM the less of a title I want with it.
I just want to be known as a sort of an ‘honest doer’.

Dear Mr Barker, I am so sorry to see the word ‘challenge’ in your writing.
I do hope you reconsider and re-establish that ‘rarefied bubble’ from the beginning of the story.
It gave me such a buzz.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Damage control the Gammon BIM Conference sponsorship way

How much does it cost to be a platinum sponsor for the next HK Institute of Building BIM Conference? (ref 1)
I have no idea, but it generally tends to be a nice chunk of money needed to become the major sponsor for such events.
Still, it must be a worthwhile investment for Gammon to have committed to this expense in times of cutting back on overheads (generally);

Warning: There is a proven double-standard when it comes to BIM conferences;
My attitude to them generally is, that they happen far too often and with far too little on offer.
Can’t do real BIM? Do a Conference on one!
I like to say that the industry is totally over-BIM-conferenced…
Occasionally I do volunteer to present at some of these and get really offended when they reject me (see blog-post a couple of days ago);
Then, just to solidify how much a hypocrite I can be, I get all soft and enthusiastic and school-girly prepared for it,  when  BIMES invites me to present the same (rejected) presentation at their upcoming workshop;

“This presentation idea sounds brilliant! I can't wait to attend it actually!”
Mohannad Altabbal, BIMES General Manager confirms my acceptance.
Oh, the right words to lift one’s ego… dangerous stuff, I know but occasionally I do indulge.

BIMES are in Dubai, let’s move back to Hong Kong; (that is, move the story back)
How did Mr Derek So, the self-crowned BIM expert and director of Gammon, justify this platinum sponsor expense to his board ?
Will it get him on the programme as a keynote speaker?
Last time I looked, there was no-one at all from his team presenting;

Or is this gesture meant to take the audience’s attention away from the fact that they have nothing new to show?
As quasi ‘host’ it would be expected of them to stay away from self-promotion and show some restraint about their own achievements? (after having claimed for years to be the best in HK?);

Or, to the contrary, will it buy them the prime spot for Mr Thomas Ho as the CEO and main BIM enthusiast of the Ex-Co to explain just how important BIM is for Gammon and how much effort they are putting into it.
After all, they recruited one of the best BIM consultants (ex Gehry Technologies-ref 6)  in the world to assist them go to the next level – even though, already claimed to be the best in Hong Kong for a while – numerous steps ahead of the Government, for example. (ref 7)
I don’t imagine they will allow for question time if Mr Ho does present, in case someone dares to ask what happened to the world class BIM expert they shipped in and out of HK under mere 4 months?

Negative thoughts aside, Gammon may use this great opportunity to team up with Autodesk and unveil a ‘Ground breaking new way of delivering the undeliverable BIM scope’ of the 11xx MTR line in a month instead of the specified 3 (ref 2-4) that had well passed for most of the contractors anyway?

Or even more spectacularly, show how BIM is assisting the catching up efforts on the major delays of the West Kowloon Terminus. (ref 5)
My guess that this surprise ‘magic’ will be left for the two gentlemen who will be talking on behalf of  InteliBuild, Mr. Jay Zhu, MEP Engineer and Mr. Mark Roberts Senior VDC Project Manager in their presentation: ‘MTR - Express Rail Link West Kowloon Terminus - Big BIM for A Big Stage’.

I any case, I wish them a good event, get the best bang for your money Gammon, you’ll need it!


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Secret Google Project Could Transform Construction Industry

"Secret Google Project Could Transform Construction Industry" – is the next big thing, wait for it! Numerous friends and acquaintances have alerted me to this news and I…wait for it a bit longer..,  well …I ‘Googled it’ (check for the results, yourself!);

And not one to get easily surprised by anything anymore (in spite of the latest happenings in my life) I can’t believe my eyes, for what I read!

Yes, I am going to be the Grinch, knock the thing straight down even without knowing what ‘it’ is! And bloody well will stay to be the Grinch of this particular topic…Not just a cautious sceptic, but a prefect Grinch that will say: bollocks!

It’s like if the twitter guys suddenly claimed to have discovered the cure for cancer or Richard Branson flew unexpectedly to the moon, oh yes, the latter might just happen… but really…the magic pill for the AEC industry?

Has this AEC thing really sunk this low?  
I can just about say that no communist propaganda of the past could have no longer competed with the rubbish that some media is prepared to publish about the  AEC these days.
Talk about dark ages.

Get real guys! Google was smart enough to drop Sketchup while it was still saleable.
There is no magic pill for the AEC, cloud based or ploughing the darkest of dirt.
It is the industry itself,  is the one that will have to roll up its sleeves and decide if it is going to carry on as a gambling pit or start to play by some more scientific rules.
And Google will be of no/ little help until that dilemma is decided on, globally, no matter on how many ‘o’s it puts in its name.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

It all started with a surprise rejection.

No, it was not really a surprise, that…

"The HKIBIM Conference Working Group regrets to inform you that your paper identified below will not be included in the program of the HKIBIM Hong Kong BIM Conference 2011 on 25-Nov-2011.
Paper Title: An alternative form of use of Building Information Modelling (BIM) : BIM Forensics, theory and practice
Author: Zolna Murray
The paper is not accepted as the paper review panel considered that the topic of the paper submitted is not fully aligned with the focus of the conference."

Totally understandable. After all, the conference is being promoted with the following PR masterpiece:

 The HKIBIM Hong Kong BIM Conference 2013 is the premier event and 4th Annual Conference for experienced BIM and AEC professionals to demonstrate the practical use of Building Information Modelling (BIM) processes using real cases and an ideal networking opportunities with experienced BIM professionals, Executives and practitioners in the industry.

What was I thinking, Forensic BIM?... in Hong Kong?
Anyway… This was just the start. I did look up the programme, a nice line-up of familiar faces and an old favourite to top it off.

Not a speaker, sorry, but a building.
Between the 10:50 – 11:10 on the day of the conference a Mr Stuart Bull, Managing Director, BIM Consulting  will be speaking on the topic of the
Sydney Opera House : BIM for the past, present and future

Over the last 2 decades it had become a bit of a hobby (obsession?) of mine to take an interest in the creation and re-creation of that particular building, to the extent that while researching for an academic paper on the use of Parametric Digital Tools in architectural design (wait for it, in 1996!) I exchanged a pair of letters with Mr Joern Utzon, himself.
So, as I was reminiscing about the time of my first attempt to master Computervision’s CADDS5 through 14 massive printed manuals to enable me do some speculative work on Utzon’s famous shells, I remembered another publication, though much smaller I devoured enthusiastically at the same time: John Yeomans’ The Other Taj Mahal.
And the thought of the little book brought me back to the present.

Yeomans played an important role in the History of the Sydney Opera House. His book about controversies surrounding the architecture, construction and design of the Sydney Opera House, ‘The other Taj Mahal: what happened to the Sydney Opera House’ was first published by Longmans in 1968. He won the Walkley national award for headline writing in 1987.

That WAS investigative journalism. And it was done about a building.
Can you match it with anything like that these days?

And forget the HKBIM conference; I never wanted to go there, anyway – the latest similar one I organised myself and funded it to a minimum of 300K HK$.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

What is the point of this ‘silly little war’ of yours?

Numerous variations of this question had been directed at me over the last couple of days, mostly from people I share the country of origin with, many I have not seen for decades.
Not all of them are negative or belittling, more like voices of reason. After all, many of these people, while of my generation, have themselves been dragged into a ‘real war’, about 2 decades ago – were taken to the other side of the river Danube against their wishes to kill people, burn down entire towns and do other unspeakable things  in the name of someone else’s ideals.
Others of those advising me now, were wise enough to move away from their country of birth rather than be part of such atrocities – and often ended up second-rate citizens for the rest of their lives in some other countries.

So, what IS the point of this ‘silly little war’ of mine? – after all ‘it is only construction’ as one of my well-wishers says.
And not that my message is that clear, they point out regularly too, I’ve attacked just about everyone within the industry, from consultants to contractors, pro BIM-mers and those against it, journalist, the media generally, fellow colleagues, the entire supply chain.
People keep pointing out, that ‘it can’t be possible that everyone is wrong and I’m the only one that is right’ – they say there is ‘no global AEC conspiracy, no evil giant corporations ready to walk over everyone and everything’…’just a bit of a wobbly industry that struggles by doing one-offs all the time’. BIM will fix it. Give it time.
I disagree. Naturally.

Yesterday, in my blog I went for the South China Morning Post, attacking them for not wanting to write about any of the hot-topics I’ve thrown at them in my unbridled rage of getting kicked out by Gammon. The post may have sounded a bit OTT and mean, I still stand by it.

One thing, I admit now that I should have added was, that they were not really that unique in their stance, not even in the ‘world of free speech’.

The sad reality is, that ‘we’ have no journalist that can meaningfully investigate construction-related stories. And when I say ‘we’ I mean the world as a global consumer of AEC products and services.
You can read daily about reports of mega projects being late, over the budget, under disputes, below quality, not fit for purpose etc. etc. etc…
But try to put a project director in a questioning chair (and does not even have to be by the media but say, by a concerned shareholder) and I bet my last dollar that the PD will weave the most heart-breaking story around your question – finishing with the crescendo of a conclusion of losing ‘only x billions of dollars’ due to his (far more often than her) great abilities to ‘minimise the damage due to the incredibly unfortunate set of unforeseen circumstances’.
So convincing will he be, that the shareholders will all leave the meeting clutching their handkerchiefs and eternally grateful for this great fellow’s efforts on looking after their investments. Someone will suggest a bonus, a raise, a new position within the company, one-two steps up on the rungs, somewhere even more exotic, say Dubai?

I have been fortunate to get to know the insides of quite a number of mega-multinational AEC companies. I have also been very patient and eager to assist many of those in cleaning up their practices and finding the ‘right way’.

My biggest surprise?  I spent zillions of hours to make it easy to understand.
Time after time, presentation after presentation, step-by-step ‘this is happening to you now and this will end up like this in the future’ – talking to project directors, engineering managers, operation managers, CEOs, CFOs and company owners and every time I get the same thing:
No, it’s not like that, you are mistaken.
Not, tell me more! Let’s go over it again! What makes you think that? Nope.
You are wrong!

Now, if you have never met me in person, you’d think (from my blogs) that I’m always this hysterical, shouting, blaming the world witch-bitch. But, believe it or not, I get into every new job, project, relationship with the idea of making it work. Calm, composed, positive and enthusiastic.
I’m almost always prepared to be argued with, even convinced to be absolutely and totally wrong.
But, this industry has sunk to such low levels that even within the ‘experts’ and ‘specialists’ you come across the biggest of projects that there are, you still get absolute blank stares when you start arguing about any question that combines more than one of technical/contractual/planning or construction methodology topics.

So, knowing this fact of the inside of the industry, one cannot expect the media to be able to meaningfully report, let alone investigate on what is going on.
Those at the very top of the global AEC know this and are still creaming it nicely.

And I will fight this practice as long as I can.
I will fight for transparency and accountability within the global AEC, for consumer rights to know what exactly IS happening on their projects, who is pulling the wool over their eyes and why.
That is my point. Play hard, but play smart. Learn the game, not just the ‘creative story writing’.

You may think I’m alone, a loser fighter, but according to the readership of my blogs, there are plenty of those ‘sitting on the fence’ – waiting for the right time to come.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A service money can’t buy! (stick around readers, I stopped moaning and am all action, again!)

Consider this question: How can a Sheik get the best car in the world, the fastest plane there is and a chef with the most of Michelin stars on his CV to cook his private dinner, yet no certainty when having any type of building built for him?

For years I’ve been accusing the global AEC industry of being rotten and corrupt.
Maybe, I was wrong. Maybe this IS the only industry operating globally that is truly transparent and egalitarian.
If you are a client of it, no matter how rich or poor you are, you get the same ‘crap service’.
OK, maybe not quite the same, money can get you a bit of a better ‘appearing’ service, consultant offices with flesh meeting rooms and leather chairs, Italian coffee machines, perfectly made up receptionist with cut-glass English accents and fly-in specialist in expensive suits and astronomical hourly charge-out-rates.
But higher likelihood that your building will be finished on time and to an agreed budget? Unlikely.

Now, if you belong to this servicing industry, that lets its clients down more often than not – you will have a list of great excuses why things in the AEC ‘are the way they are’.
Most of these will start with the world ‘unexpected’.
Unexpected site conditions, unexpected weather patterns, unexpected labour shortages, unexpected client initiated changes…

Since when has the world become so unexpectedly unexpected every step of a way from the idea of getting a garden shed in one's backyard to actually placing one’s shovels in it?

I have my theory on this question, of course – things started getting off the rails for AEC clients about 3 decades ago but the worst damage was done over the last 10 years and the emergence of the multi-disciplined-globally spread AEC servicing company phenomenon is at the root of the problem.

So, after spending the last 6 weeks of feeling very sorry for myself because one of those (Balfour Beatty) had been really ‘nasty and mean’ to me – it is time to get back to action.

I will get off the ground that missing service the AEC industry needs!
Call it ‘a consumer advocate’ or a ‘hired gun’, I don’t mind, but I’m onto it!

There truly is no other industry in the world as bad as the AEC industry.

And the latest ‘Leighton scandal’ is another proof for this. Whatever way I look at it, it is a ‘fishy story’. Not because of what it reveals but because of all the things it does not.
A ‘pretend investigation’ that does not even scratches the surface.
And you wonder, why?

Why re-heat some old ‘corruption’ stories that at best sit on the fence of ‘is it corruption or is it just paying local fees/taxes to get a job?’ yet leave real, quantifiable cases of blatant misuse of shareholders’ money untouched, no matter how black-and-white the evidence of wrongdoing is?

Why not get a serious look into what this ‘culture of largesse’ means in reality? A set of conditions where those that are in the ‘Hamish circle’ can do no wrong and millions lost on a job under their helm will award them a new post somewhere exotic with an even bigger bucket of money to squander?

Many headlines talk of ‘analysts struggling to quantify damage’ - of course they are, they have no idea just how wide and deep the damages are;
 If they ever knew how to do investigative journalism that skill has been long lost in their chummily and matey dealings with exactly the same Leighton boys, no matter if it was Sydney, Hong Kong, Dubai or Qatar.

When I read the annual reports, year after year on why and how the ME-arm of Leightons, under the management of HLG was losing huge amounts of money, I thought we were back in the times of the second world word where a simple message would travel for months from one end of the world to the other often distorted by the end, rather than the 2010-s when a journo could hop on an Emirates plane in Sydney and be in Dubai in 16 hours and interview those guys directly about what really was going on,  where theshare-holder’s moneys really went?

They could have, God forbid, talked to those ‘Arab legacy clients’ often cited in the annual returns (what a word for them) a surprisingly civilised  bunch they would have found, people that like their projects finished on time and on budget.
How unreasonable from them to expect this from the talented globe-trotting Hamish crew that have some other priorities to look after and few skills to keep a company afloat in a real market?

Trust me, this latest Fairfax ‘bust’ on Leighton is just another scam, covering up something much bigger;
Or, prove me wrong, send some real journalist into the Middle East; Interview people like Elias Zraicat, Khalil Mansour, Rob Johnstone, Jeremy Truebridge and Dale Burtenshaw. Trace their backgrounds, if needed talk to their primary teachers, find patterns, identify trends…
Do something real for once!

And as for your New Zealand counterparts, I’ve also checked: no news re Leighton’s ‘scandals’ in neither Stuff nor NZ Herald.

Now, how weird is that? Or is it?

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Claim Managers

The BIM Utopia of the UK Government Mandated BIM: When Ex CAD Managers will rule over ex Claim Managers

There is one thing about the UK Mandated BIM thing that is as certain as anything – you do not question it;
If you do, you get the quintessential army of the most serious of BIM zealous-followers  descend  on you with all their might questioning your questions, so much so that you will wish that you just accepted straight up right, that the UK BIM idea was the best idea ever, since sliced bread or even well before that, around the time the wheel was discovered.

The theory works reasonably well for a while, once you get over the ‘triangle-or wedge’ and process all the residual doubt left from knowing the current practices far too well.
Still, there is one thing that keeps on hanging around,. The role, of the ‘claim manager’. Or contract manager, or the QS, dressed in the cloak of whatever colour you like as long as it is is closely related to guessing the best value of work done/or to be done by whoever hires him/her to do so.
And these guys are not cheap. And are very active. Have a look at various forums, pretty vocal too!
What Is going to happen to this body of specialist so vital for the UK industry at present once this squeaky clean BIM thing comes on board? So scientific and exact with no room for the relaxed padding the ex-claim managers are so used to? Anyone prepared to quesss?

The year is 2016.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Birds of a feather flock together: “Building giant Leighton rife with corruption: claims” (

Seeing the title of the article, I should have felt happy, vindicated even -  isn’t this something that I have been warning against for years? Of course I’m pleased – though I never had any doubt that what I was witnessing within Leightons’ crew while working at HLG was the most arrogant of cultures and congregation of people that could ‘do no wrong’.

What is interesting in this article, as in many others is, that though the HEADLINES are BIG AND BOLD the emphasis stays on the ‘little c’ of corruption (as in individual acts) as opposed to the ‘big C’, the  ‘Culture’ of corruption, this latter is palpable, non-omissible, you feel it, almost the moment you enter the premises of such ‘corrupted’ company.

What the public and even the business world find outraging when it comes to corruption are the ‘bribery’ and ‘kickbacks’ – proof straight away of stealing of goods and materials.
Yet, as bad these are, they are  the ‘low hanging fruit of bad corporate behaviours’ and  are  less dangerous for the company impacted by it (or the public, if the company is a public/government company) –.

Much worse … is a loss of significant magnitude induced into an entity through a combination of incompetence-negligence-and arrogance driven behaviour of the top management.
And this is, where Leighton are the Kings. (could not resist the ‘pun’)
Never before had I met an AEC company of their size with people placed as high as they are with capabilities as low as in Leighton. (maybe have since, within my later employer, but that is again, a different story and they are not major JV partners for nothing, after all);

Yet, this behaviour seem to be much often tolerated by shareholders than the ‘fingers in the till type ones’
This phenomenon  interests me, why is that  one individual may steal x thousand dollars and get caught, while another climbs the corporate ladder drawing huge salaries over many-many years leaving behind a string of projects with big losses, unhappy clients and out-of pocket subcontractors., without anyone ever questing his capabilities.

Is this due to very talented financial auditors or extremely incompetent technical ones?
Is there just no one in the media that is able to see through and highlight damages borne out of this type of behaviours and warn readers, creditors, countries whose money and/or names are at stakes?

Well’ we will follow all future reporting on Leighton’s activities with great interests.
I know a very well qualified person that could shine a big torch on some of the trickier contractual/technical issues!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

‘Is Hong Kong what the UK would have been like without the government BIM strategy?’!

Interesting article, in many ways. Let me indulge in a bit of an analysis
(highly subjective of course…)

First a disclaimer – most of what I know about the UK BIM ‘thing’ is second hand – i.e. through highly processed publications originating from the team that drives the initiative and by having worked alongside many ‘UK BIM expert- exports’ as well as companies that have at least one foot in the UK AEC market.

In this article Mr Barker reports back from a trip to Hong Kong and describes his fascination by the noticeable difference in approach to BIM compared with the UK.
He claims that, ‘For the last two years in the UK, we have been part of a government-led initiative to promote BIM as one of the significant drivers to reduce cost and carbon at both CapEx and OpEx stage and this has led to a positive shift in the industry’s comprehension of the benefits at a strategic level.’
Personally, I’d love to know how this ‘positive shift…and especially at a strategic level’ is being measured in the UK.
My associates, working in the UK AEC, that are not themselves hands-on BIMmers  already,  look at this initiative as something that ‘we will do tomorrow, or the day after…definitely before the deadline, when was that… 2016?’ and even then’ isn’t this just the same thing as when we moved from the drawing board to CAD?, it happened, what’s the fuss about, roll in the CAD guys’
And the higher they are of the AEC food-chain, the less interested they are in the BIM-thing.
Unless they are of course the Evangelists of it, in what case they make a nice little career of pushing BIM, especially at this ‘all education – little measurable impact on the real life’ stage.

‘Hong Kong is different’. Mr Barker continues ‘There is no central government mandate and little sign of this changing in the near future.’
I accept this claim to some extent – apart from the fact that the MTR (76% owned by the HK Government) is currently running a major BIM undertaking that I can say at least on its contractual expectation will rival any BIM initiative in the world.

Could Mr Barker really have visited HK and mixed with the BIM-cream of it and not be made aware of this little experiment going on?
Hard to imagine, since he sings praises to Laing O’Rourke’s  BIM work on the MTR’s Admiralty Station interchange. 

He could have dug into the ‘large client mandated BIM’ project that is the Shatin Central Link MTR line a bit deeper, and  enquired how all the impacted contractors were going about it. He may have recognised that the problems in this type of BIM requirement are often due to the lack of capability to enforce it, let alone meaningfully feedback the results. There are complex  processes of claims, arbitrations and other ways of construction dispute resolutions. This includes making deals over a few beers, which still happens much more often on mega projects than the parties involved would like to admit.

Even in the title Mr Barker has given his article:
‘Is Hong Kong what the UK would have been like without the government BIM strategy?’
I sense a bit of ex-colonial superiority, which is odd, considering that a very large number of highly paid UK expats still rule within the HK AEC;

While writing this comment I must disclose that I overstayed my welcome in Hong Kong by a week or two and am looking at new greener pastures.  (there are still some questions of integrity to resolve)

Mr Barker claims the UK to be the ‘rarefied bubble of advanced best practice’ ;
Should I claim the same vantage point?
Rest assured, I will not be holding my breath much in the hope of getting support from the mainstream BIM practitioners in UK as I look for clients for MMA (if and only if) as I’ve poked too much fun at too many of them already.

There, ‘you’ve cooked your goose in Hong Kong’ said an acquaintance of mine – and how right he is – and this may yet prove to be true for much larger geographical areas than HK – but who knows, one day, one day…actions will speak louder than words.